My Mid-Year Top 10 Films (2017)

Listing is something that I have always enjoyed, and my Top 10 films of the year ones have been a constant over my 400 different film blogs.  What’s interesting about them is how they change and how much I’m disgusted by them when I look back.  Honestly I look back at my 2016 list and feel sick at myself for liking certain films as much as I did.  So, in attempt to sort of breakdown the whole year, I’m doing one now at the half way point. Then, at the end of the year I can see how many in this list didn’t make the final cut.  As always with these things, I haven’t seen all the films that have come out in the UK this year, so when I do eventually get round to seeing them they may make the final list at the end of the year.

What I’ve also done for the this is bring back an old scoring system I’ve used in the past. Ratings of films has fascinated recently so I thought it’d be interesting to see where these film ranks in my own particular system, seen as they’re my favourite films of the year. It’s pretty basic really, where I split the film into four categories: Presentation (effectively mise-en-scene & cinematography), Performances, Narrative, and effect.  The first three being marked out of three, and the last 1, though it never gets that full 1 point unless I have seen the film more than once.  It’s a methodical way of looking at films, but it gives a final score out of 10 which I think is a simple way of gauging how good the film is without revealing how much I enjoyed it personally.

On with the list…

 

10.  La La Land (January)

lalaland

The beauty of this film is obvious, yet I don’t think it is as special as perhaps it’s marked down to be.  In fact I think that opening scene everyone talks about is really dull. Of course director Damien Chazelles artful presence is clear but I found that he linked music and film tighter in his previous film Whiplash.  The plot is rocky at times and I found Gosling and Stone just okay in the leads.  Despite all of this it makes it into my top 10 because of the simple pleasures of it.  It is a really happy film to watch and I can universally recommend it.  There are some magical moments that will capture the imagination of anyone, and in the end it’s a positive for Hollywood cinema.

Presentation: 3/3

Performances: 2/3

Narrative: 1.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 7/10

 

9. Okja (June)

okja-01

This is an odd one because I’m not entirely sure how much I enjoyed the film.  Joon-ho Bong is a director that I admire, and so I was looking forward to it.  I didn’t get to see it in the cinema and had to make do with the Netflix version, though I still found it a very attractive.  It’s shot well, like all of his previous films, and has a lighter edge to some of the look of the framing.  Tonally it has some zanier moments as well, which I welcomed but overall ended on a pit of the stomach lull with some of the subject matter. This gave the film meaning, and it was never too much in your face.  The performances were each individually different and the actors brought a lot of life to the story.  Actaully looking back at the film I can say that I firmly did enjoy it.

Presentation: 2.5/3

Performances: 3/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once0

Final Score: 8.5/10

 

8.  John Wick: Chapter 2 (February)

JW2_D26_6250.cr2

The first John Wick was a real fun movie, that I thought dropped off towards the end. This sequel is very similar, but replace the fun with intense thrills and the dropped off to picked up.  Unlike the first film it escalates rather than falls away and so the action is outstanding from start to finish.  It is expertly choreographed and has a more vicious look this time.  There are scenes in this movie that shocked me completely and I was really blown away.  It’s a genre of film that always pulls me to the cinema and I’m looking forward to the next one, because surely they can’t top it?

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 2.5/3

Narrative: 2/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score 8/10

 

7.  Silence (January)

silence-movie-image-7

Silence is a tough film, a long, slow process of torture basically.  Yet I feel like it is so beautifully done.  Scorsese deals with each scene with such care and nuance, with the cinematography being really gorgeous and complex.  The narrative is dark and at times lead Andrew Garfield loses his footing, but overall its another Scorsese triumph.  I’m not sure I could recommend this film to anyone and I’m in no rush to watch it again simply due to the subject matter.  Scorsese just manages to win me over with experience, and I think a really compelling story.

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 2/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 8/10

 

6.  T2: Trainspotting (January)

t2-trainspotting-trailer-0

It was sort of inevitable how much I would like this film, because of how much I love the original novel and film.  What the sequel brought was actually much more than I was expecting.  It was funny, tragic and had some great film making quirks like the original. All the cast were on top form and Danny Boyle certainly hasn’t lost it.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/t2-trainspotting-film-review/

Presentation: 2.5/3

Performance: 2.5/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 8/10

 

5. Logan (March)

logan-and-laura

I had a real gun-wrenching reaction to this film.  Wolverine is a character that I’m fond of and he is portrayed perfectly in this film.  It’s a dark tale, full of tragedy and violence. The reaction I had to the film made me write this: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/logan-the-use-of-visceral-cinema/.  I would suggest reading that to see my full thoughts on the film, but to shorten it, I believe the film is a fantastic right to the bone visceral experience.

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9/10

 

4. Manchester by the Sea (January)

18MANBYSEA-facebookJumbo

You know what, I adore this film.  The more I think about it the more I want it to be number 1 on my list, showing the strength of the top 3.  It is stunning on a visual level and a dramatic one.  Every single moment is perfect executed by director Ken Lonergan and everyone present on screen does a wonderful job.  It is a masterstroke performance from Casey Affleck in a story that will tear you down, but remind you of the simplicity of life and loss.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/manchester-by-the-sea-film-review/

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 3/3

Effect: 1/1

Final Score: 10/10

 

3. Baby Driver (June)

baby driver

This is a film that I really cannot wait to see again.  It is bold and exciting but most importantly it is a brilliant cinema experience.  Right from the start of the film I was hooked in with the soundtrack effect and it never lets up.  It is showcase of what music can do when it blends with film, and a showcase of Edgar Wright at his best.  He crafts together this heist romp that has an edge thanks to his auteur sensibilities.  And it is another film that I can universally recommend.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/baby-driver-film-review/

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 2.5/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9/10

 

2. Free Fire (March)

free-fire-brie-larsen-sharlto-copley

I was almost certain after seeing this film it would be my number 1 for the year, because it was so much fun to watch in the cinema.  Ben Wheatley is an interesting filmmaker and he continues to be with this film.  It fits into my favourite film category: small premise with interesting characters.  A 90 minute shootout is what it says on the tin, but the chaos that actually occurs is much more than that.  It’s a stunning take on violence and conflict that I have never seen before.  Each character has their own traits and beliefs meaning that there interactions are not only full of peril but are also full of humour.  I think its a real achievement and will go down as a classic in my books.  My original review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/free-fire-film-review/

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 3/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9.5/10

 

1. Dunkirk (July)

dunkirk-christopher-nolan

There is a lot I could say about this film and I’ve been really battling with myself whether to review it or not.  I could talk about the subject matter being really meaningful to me as a British person and the care Christopher Nolan takes with it.  I could talk about the groundbreaking film making techniques he employs, or the breathtaking cinematography.  I could talk about the edge Nolan puts on it by playing with the time of the plots.  All in all, it has to be experienced, and in the best way possible.  I saw it in 70mm iMAX and it utterly shattered me.  My bones creaked and my blood swirled through each masterfully crafted scene.  It’s a must watch, and once you’ve scene it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be near the top of your list too.

Presentation: 3/3

Performance: 3/3

Narrative: 3/3

Effect: 0.5/1 (only seen once)

Final Score: 9.5/10

 

There are 7 other films that I’ve seen in this first half of the year, so I’ve ranked from 11-17 below…

11. Moonlight – P: 3/3, P: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 0/1, F.S: 8/10

12. The Lost City of Z – P: 2.5/3, P: 1.5/3, N: 3/3, E: 0.5/1, FS: 7.5/10

13. Hidden Figures – P: 2/3, P: 3/3, N: 2.5/3, E: 0.5/1, FS: 8/10

14. Guardians of the Galaxy – P: 3/3, P: 2.5/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 0/1, FS:  7/10

15. War for the Planet of the Apes – P: 3/3, P: 2.5/3, N: 1/3, E: 0/1, FS: 6.5/10

16. Get Out – P: 2.5/3, P: 3/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 0/1, FS: 7/10

17. Alien Covenant – P: 2/3, P: 2/3, N: 1/3, FS: 5/10

 

Logan & The Use of Visceral Cinema

In the insiderobbie school of film, which only has one student, visceral cinema can be defined in two ways.  The first being pure visceral film-making, where you get a very aggressive feeling from the action on screen, and the second being where drama hits you like a brick falling onto an ant.  Logan is both of those and is the perfect film in taking a look at what the insiderobbie school of film can get out of truly powerful cinema.

NEuAFuEYa2hPyu_2_b

The X-Men universe holds a special place in my heart and despite how popcorn trash the films can get, I will always adore the characters.  And I can’t explain why, there is just something about these characters that separates them from any other superhero cohort. The Wolverine sits nicely in the middle of it all, a character that is rarely present in a film that I would consider to be artful, but shines thanks to his conflicted nature and an actor that gives everything to him.  An actor that needs no introduction, simply the actor that was born to play Wolverine; Hugh Jackman.  He adds a weight and full character embodiment that often makes him the highlight of the X-men movies.  Then Logan comes along, the film anticipated as Jackman’s last outing and a film that is allowed to flourish.

Allowed to flourish in a sense that the director James Mangold actually gets to make the film he wants to, and with the help of Jackman they crafted together an R rated Wolverine movie. The age certificate is the catalyst for this visceral cinema relation and the point where it all begins.  This is because Logan has always been an angry character, he needs to severe heads.  I mean, he doesn’t want to, but we have not seen the full character until this point.  We need to see that blood for us to fully understand him.  And so, before I start discussing the films correlation with visceral cinema in depth I’ll do a quick non-spoiler breakdown of the film… It’s thoroughly entertaining in its action and pacing whilst separating itself from the common superhero film by having slower moments that are interesting and full of drama.  Hugh Jackman is of course the spearhead again and he quite literally at times drives this film.  It is grounded in a sense of age and fragility with Logan himself, and the crumbling Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).  To cut this part short, because I didn’t want to do a review review kind of review thing, its phenomenally executed as a final Jackman Wolverine appearance.

maxresdefault (2)

*SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT*

Where the film really got me was when it was shaking my sensibility and knocking me back figuratively and literally in my seat.  This is where the term visceral cinema can be aligned with the film.  There is a moment in Logan where the young character Laura, who can’t be any older than 10, gets harpooned through the heart.  Now she has healing powers so it certainly wasn’t a fatal blow, yet it still shocked me.  From there the violence escalates and when it comes, it really comes.  It is explicit in its gore, and I am a massive fan of this when it is done right.  This film nails it, because it is shot and made in a way where you feel every piece of violence.  Not only this but in context with the film it is used poignantly, as the moments of violence are moments of pain for the characters.  Yes, it is cool seeing Wolverine, or child wolverine tear a soldier to death, however it is the weight behind the punch that makes you feel it.  This is where the film slides into that first definition of visceral cinema.  It is a brushstroke take of brutality and survival instincts that create a real intensity scene by scene.

Now to the interesting stuff, and I think the brave stuff.  About half way through this film Charles Xavier dies.  It is of course an inevitable death, as the film sets him up from the start to be in the final stages of his life.  That doesn’t make his death any less powerful when it happens.  He is effectively stabbed through the heart by the Wolverine himself.  I say this because when it happened I thought it was a dream sequence or a distorted reality that had come with Charles’ Alzheimer’s.  For a few moments you are puzzled by the scene, and the ball really starts rolling when it is revealed that this is a classic X-men ex machina.  It is a governmental weaponized version of the Wolverine that has killed Charles.  A brainless killer that has also brutally murdered the family that our characters have bonded with for the last few hours.  The whole sequence that follows is shot in almost horror fashion, beautifully orchestrating a tough and emotional fight scene.  For me, this is real bravery by the people behind the film as it is a look into the darker sides of the superhero set up.  This is just a small part that I have picked out, and the film offers far more on this subject.  The fact that the plot is guided by a company that is enslaving children, and putting them to sleep when they become redundant is another talking point. Or that the major theme of the film is ageing and loss, two things that we often like to hide away from.  You blend this is in with the explicit action and you get a piece of cinema that is shocking in nature, which then ultimately makes it incredibly moving.

professorx

Perhaps seeing a few moments of this film would help you understand what I’m getting at. It is cinema that grabs you by the throat and changes you.  I guess some of the classic parallels would be the closing shootout of Taxi Driver, where you are put through a series of bloody wounds after a subtle character study.  Or the rape scene from Irreversible, that totally shifts your point of view on human nature in the narrative.  Logan moves you in that way, our beloved main character is killed off by a different version of himself.  A different version of the Wolverine that buries a tree branch into his chest.  The horror and brutality is used perfectly to compel the tale.  It reminds us of the harshness of the world and the realities that cinema can portray.  Powerful realities that move us or force us to feel something.  Cinema where you feel something real is important and I’m glad a superhero movie has finally won me over in that way.

Side-note:  I think I could write more about this film, and in particular the techniques that Mangold uses to portray this visceral feeling I’m talking about.  One day I might attempt to break down, even though they are simple in concept, Charles’ seizures in the film, as they are possibly the most powerful sequences.  For now I’m going to let this sit and see what I think of the film after I have seen it a second time.